In 2020 the most prestigious award for journalists was given to a Nikole Hannah-Jones for her lead essay in the “1619 Project.” The hit piece calls American Founding Ideals False. Scholars worldwide have called on the board to rescind the prize as there is no evidence to support her claims regarding America’s founding.
Nikole Hannah-Jones is an American journalist who works for the New York Times and is well known for her civil rights coverage. In November 1995, while a Sophomore at Notre Dame, Hannah-Jones penned a letter to the editor criticizing Fred Kelly’s Observer article entitled “God Bless Columbus.” She wrote, “The white race is the biggest murderer, rapist, pillager, and thief of the modern world. Europeans have colonized and destroyed the indigenous populations on every continent of this planet” and that “Christopher Columbus and those like him were no different then Hitler.”
Nikole Hannah-Jones, in 2019 would create what is called the 1619 Project. The project is an ongoing initiative . . . [which] “aims to reframe the country’s history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of our national narrative.”
According to Nikole, upon the first printing of the 1619 project, the New York Times experienced a demand like it had hadn’t seen since 2008. As a result of the production, so far, the lead author for the project has been awarded a Pulitzer Prize, spawned a podcast, a high-school curriculum, and an upcoming book.
However, several noteworthy scholars, after reading the essay and sifting through the project, have become irate, as the 1619 project is not based on evidence rather ideology. In December of 2020, four historians, one of which is Sean Wilentz, a Princeton Historian, issued a detailed rebuttal to the New York Times regarding the major falsehoods of the 1619 project. In addition, the rebuttal was signed by four more well-known scholars; James McPherson, Gordon Wood, Victoria Bynum, and James Oakes.
In the rebuttal, the scholars pointed out that; “On the American Revolution, pivotal to any account of our history, the project asserts that the founders declared the colonies’ independence of Britain “in order to ensure slavery would continue.” This is not true. If supportable, the allegation would be astounding — yet every statement offered by the project to validate it is false. Some of the other material in the project is distorted, including the claim that “for the most part,” black Americans have fought their freedom struggles “alone.”
“Still other material is misleading. The project criticizes Abraham Lincoln’s views on racial equality but ignores his conviction that the Declaration of Independence proclaimed universal equality, for blacks as well as whites, a view he upheld repeatedly against powerful white supremacists who opposed him. The project also ignores Lincoln’s agreement with Frederick Douglass that the Constitution was, in Douglass’s words, “a GLORIOUS LIBERTY DOCUMENT.” Instead, the project asserts that the United States was founded on racial slavery, an argument rejected by a majority of abolitionists and proclaimed by champions of slavery like John C. Calhoun.”
While the article and project itself are one problem, the other is that the Times has announced ambitious plans to make the project available to schools in the form of curriculums and related instructional material regardless of the absolute falsehoods within the 1619 project. Even more, The Times Editors responded to the rebuttal publicly by saying;
“Though we may not be historians, we take seriously the responsibility of accurately presenting history to readers of The New York Times. The letter writers express concern about a “closed process” and an opaque “panel of historians,” so I’d like to make clear the steps we took. We did not assemble a formal panel for this project. Instead, during the early stages of development, we consulted with numerous scholars of African-American history and related fields, in a group meeting at The Times as well as in a series of individual conversations. (Five of those who initially consulted with us — Mehrsa Baradaran of the University of California, Irvine; Matthew Desmond and Kevin M. Kruse, both of Princeton University; and Tiya Miles and Khalil G. Muhammad, both of Harvard University — went on to publish articles in the issue.) After those consultations, writers conducted their own research, reading widely, examining primary documents and artifacts, and interviewing historians. Finally, during the fact-checking process, our researchers carefully reviewed all the articles in the issue with subject-area experts. This is no different from what we do on any article.
As the five letter writers well know, there are often debates, even among subject-area experts, about how to see the past. Historical understanding is not fixed; it is constantly being adjusted by new scholarship and new voices. Within the world of academic history, differing views exist, if not over what precisely happened, then about why it happened, who made it happen, how to interpret the motivations of historical actors, and what it all means.”
Britain abolished slavery in 1807, American abolished slavery in 1865, the American Revolution was fought from April 19, 1775, until September 3, 1783. Americans declared independence on July 4th, 1776. The reason for the revolution was because of taxes and that the American colonies were not represented in parliament.
Furthermore, the project only being a couple of months old at this point and having already faced severe criticism from heavy-weight scholars, had awarded Nikole Hannah-Jones the nomination for a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in May of 2020.
However, several months later; The National Association of Scholars called on the Politzer Prize Board to rescind her award. The National Association of Scholars is led by Peter Wood, who is the President of the organization.
“When the Pulitzer Board announced the prize on May 4, 2020, it praised Hannah-Jones for “a sweeping, deeply reported and personal essay for the ground-breaking 1619 Project, which seeks to place the enslavement of Africans at the center of America’s story, prompting public conversation about the nation’s founding and evolution.” Note well the last five words. Clearly, the award was meant not merely to honor this one isolated essay, but the Project as a whole, with its framing contention that the year 1619, the date when some twenty Africans arrived at Jamestown, ought to be regarded as the nation’s “true founding,” supplanting the long-honored date of July 4, 1776, which marked the emergence of the United States as an independent nation.”
“Beginning almost immediately after its publication, though, the essay and the Project ran into controversy. It has been subjected to searching criticism by many of the foremost historians of our time and by the Times’ own fact-checker. The scrutiny has left the essay discredited, so much so that the Times has felt the need to go back and change a crucial passage in it, softening but not eliminating its unsupported assertion about slavery and the Revolution.”
“The Project as a whole was marred by similar faults. Prominent historians, most of them deeply sympathetic to the Project’s goal of bringing the African American experience more fully into our understanding of the American past, nevertheless felt obliged to point out, in public statements beginning in September 2019, the Project’s serious factual errors, specious generalizations, and forced interpretations. Hannah-Jones did not refute these criticisms or answer them in a respectful or meaningful way. Instead, she dismissed them. In December 2019, five prominent historians wrote a joint letter to The New York Times expressing their “strong reservations about important aspects of the 1619 Project.” The New York Times Magazine’s editor-in-chief Jake Silverstein brushed aside the letter with the explanation that “historical understanding is not fixed; it is constantly being adjusted by new scholarship and new voices.”2 True enough; but he refrained from also mentioning that the advance of historical understanding always involves the testing of new interpretations through a process of open criticism and the free exchange of ideas in honest debate, the very things that Hannah-Jones has consistently disdained. Despite this stonewalling, the criticisms of The 1619 Project continued, notably in another joint letter signed by twelve other historians on December 30. Mr. Silverstein again responded saying, that the Times’s “research desk” had examine their criticisms and “concluded no corrections are warranted.”
“The duplicity of attempting to alter the historical record in a manner intended to deceive the public is as serious an infraction against professional ethics as a journalist can commit.”
Jones is attempting to alter historical records without warrant or the facts to accomplish such and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 2020. Furthermore, as in the Times editors’ words, they are not historians; rather, they are journalists; what merit do they have to create a high school curriculum? Education is rather important, the historical record is important, and by no means should history be changed to match the needs of a collective ideology. Instead, facts should shape ideology. Like Critical Race Theory, the project is openly anti-American, slanderous of American ideals, and the founder’s intentions for the United States of America.